Microbiologists have uncovered a sneaky trick by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa to oust rivals. It deploys a toxin delivery machine to breach cell walls of competitors without hurting itself.
Its means of attack helps it survive in the outside environment and may even help it cause infection.
P. aeruginosa is a common bacterium that lives in soil, and also an opportunistic pathogen best known for infecting the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients.
The scientists discovered that P. aeruginosa injects toxins into rival bacteria with a needle-like puncturing device called the type VI secretion system (T6SS). The toxins degrade competitors' protective barricades – their cell walls. The research report also delineates the complex defensive mechanisms by which P. aeruginosa protects itself from its own artillery.
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"Type VI secretion delivers bacteriolytic effectors to target cells" (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v475/n7356/full/nature10244.html)